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Dealing with high-pressing AI teams


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I've run into a tactical issue that I need some help with. Currently playing as Real Betis, season 12. The team is set up to play a patient possession game, and generally, we're successful with it. But there's one style we can't seem to succeed against- teams who play an intense pressing game.

Here's my usual tactic- I use Balanced mentality as the default, but a Positive mentality in most matches where we're favored:

4231.thumb.png.256b1d4e77b473d1d4ba57b45a7c1fbd.png

 

The intent is to get the ball to the front four, who create movement to open spaces in the defense, and use the CM's to shield the back line and recycle possession.

Against high-pressing sides, we struggle to get past the halfway line, frequently lose the ball to tackles/interceptions, and when we do get the ball forward, the opposition tend to sit deep and intercept or block our passes/crosses. It's really effective at restricting our chances, and results in a lot of scoreless draws. If we do win, it's usually because we get a goal from a set piece, as we also get fouled frequently, and I have several good free kick and penalty takers. 

Any ideas on how to beat these high-pressing sides? I've tried a few things, with mixed success - increasing tempo, going more direct with the passing, and removing short kicks from the GK to combat the opposition's attempts to prevent short GK distribution- but nothing that seems to work consistently. 

Edited by RCCook
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Depending on how they press - like with what formation/structure - I usually try to get an extra man in defense to help bypass the press. So if they press with two strikers I would have 3 central defenders. That suggest a formation switch - which can be a radical thing to do so if you are not into that you dont have to. But I have found it really helps with moving the ball upfield that you have a numbers advantage in the first line. So like against a high pressing 4231 I would field a back four with a DM so that means my central defenders and dm is one more than their AM and ST. And so on. 

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In your setup, your DLP comes and gets the ball - he's the only playmaker in your team and he's a ball magnet. Therefore if they manage to man mark him out of the game, you'll be deeply annoyed and won't build properly your attacks. And with a balanced mentality, your players won't attempt many risky passes. Maybe you could add a BPD instead of a CD to have another player able to bring the ball up front.

After that, there's no definite answer to it as it usually depends on their formation and their pressing. If they are playing a 4-2-3-1 with high pressure in the middle of the pitch, you might consider playing down the flanks and replacing your IF(S) by a AP(s) to focus ball passing to him. Another idea, if pressed with 2 forwards, would be to play with a half back to have 3 men to build from the defense.

 

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6 hours ago, xavierm said:

In your setup, your DLP comes and gets the ball - he's the only playmaker in your team and he's a ball magnet. Therefore if they manage to man mark him out of the game, you'll be deeply annoyed and won't build properly your attacks. And with a balanced mentality, your players won't attempt many risky passes. Maybe you could add a BPD instead of a CD to have another player able to bring the ball up front.

After that, there's no definite answer to it as it usually depends on their formation and their pressing. If they are playing a 4-2-3-1 with high pressure in the middle of the pitch, you might consider playing down the flanks and replacing your IF(S) by a AP(s) to focus ball passing to him. Another idea, if pressed with 2 forwards, would be to play with a half back to have 3 men to build from the defense.

 

Most of the teams that play this way against me match my 4-2-3-1 shape, or use a 4-4-1-1, and tend to press us all over the pitch.

I played 2 matches last night against teams using high pressing, and changed my right DC to a BPD, and added "pass into space," thinking that the opponents' high press might leave spaces open. First match, against Getafe, we won 2-0, with the goals coming from a free kick and a through ball to my right winger, who beat his man. Second match, against Juventus, we couldn't get anything going, and lost 3-0. Obviously differing levels of opposition, but like you said, no definite answer. 

I do have a 3-4-1-2 formation I use on occasion- might give that a try against some of these teams. 

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The problem with "pass into space" is that there must be space to pass the ball into :D.  To me, on your setup, the only man who can have space to run into is your W(At) and somehow your FB(At) - but your FB(At) will have their winger and wingback. 

You can also analyze their roles and duties. As an example, if your W(At) is on the same side than their WB(At), he will have space to run behind his back and then the "pass into space" can be effective. I'd also maybe try to switch to a positive mentality to increase tendency to pass the ball through the line, and add a "dribble less" if you find your players are overly tackled by the opposition.

 

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1 hour ago, xavierm said:

The problem with "pass into space" is that there must be space to pass the ball into :D.  To me, on your setup, the only man who can have space to run into is your W(At) and somehow your FB(At) - but your FB(At) will have their winger and wingback. 

You can also analyze their roles and duties. As an example, if your W(At) is on the same side than their WB(At), he will have space to run behind his back and then the "pass into space" can be effective. I'd also maybe try to switch to a positive mentality to increase tendency to pass the ball through the line, and add a "dribble less" if you find your players are overly tackled by the opposition.

 

I have been using a Positive mentality more often, and that seems to help, particularly against lesser opposition. 

24 minutes ago, summatsupeer said:

Maybe the issue is the players, do they have the in possession attributes to make themselves available and progress the ball past the press?

They should- our squad is rated 3rd-best in La Liga after Barcelona and Madrid. The only area we're a bit weak in offensively is Flair. 

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18 minutes ago, RCCook said:

They should- our squad is rated 3rd-best in La Liga after Barcelona and Madrid. The only area we're a bit weak in offensively is Flair. 

This is too general, need to look the attributes of the actual players losing the ball rather than general squad quality.

Really, video/image of positions you fail to transition would tell us a lot more about what is actually happening on the pitch.

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2 hours ago, summatsupeer said:

This is too general, need to look the attributes of the actual players losing the ball rather than general squad quality.

Really, video/image of positions you fail to transition would tell us a lot more about what is actually happening on the pitch.

Here's a clip from the Juventus match where you can see how we fail to get forward, and wind up backpassing to the GK, who clears it for a throw-in:

 

Edited by RCCook
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GK didn't have any option, by time he controlled the pass he had no one available.  The GK looks right footed and the pass was to his left, so a terrible backpass which brings me to back to my earlier point THE ATTRIBUTES.  No instruction changes how bad that pass was or how long it took the GK to control the ball.  Roll it back earlier and the MCR basically marked himself out of being open with his movement when the FB and the DC had the ball.  The DCR needed to control the ball quickly and pass quickly before the opposition player got close who ended up blocking both the MCL and MCR as options hence the back pass.

Is this a common pattern? Is that DCR not that good with the ball so when the FB-Su, CM-Su and DLP-De or other DC-De (all quite safe in this system) pass to him is he the weak link?  Do the CM pair end up unavailable so not giving the DC's any help?

 

Edited by summatsupeer
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27 minutes ago, summatsupeer said:

GK didn't have any option, by time he controlled the pass he had no one available.  The GK looks right footed and the pass was to his left, so a terrible backpass which brings me to back to my earlier point THE ATTRIBUTES.  No instruction changes how bad that pass was or how long it took the GK to control the ball.  Roll it back earlier and the MCR basically marked himself out of being open with his movement when the FB and the DC had the ball.  The DCR needed to control the ball quickly and pass quickly before the opposition player got close who ended up blocking both the MCL and MCR as options hence the back pass.

Is this a common pattern? Is that DCR not that good with the ball so when the FB-Su, CM-Su and DLP-De or other DC-De (all quite safe in this system) pass to him is he the weak link?  Do the CM pair end up unavailable so not giving the DC's any help?

 

These are my starting DC's- the first one is the right-sided DC in that video:

Memeti.thumb.png.cf8e4a4f0083fa667389b406e008a06e.png

Alves.thumb.png.024c03365b66101712d22c32d32d760b.png

 

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I'd not expect that bad backpass to happen often looking at him but First touch could be better to be able to pass before the opposition presser gets close to them.

Do any players have traits, like the CM-Su?  He seemed to make a forward run earlier than I expected which might make it harder to play shorter passes when one of the CM's is pushing higher with the AM-At and W-At?

Do you have other examples of poor build up? 

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On 17/09/2020 at 16:47, summatsupeer said:

I'd not expect that bad backpass to happen often looking at him but First touch could be better to be able to pass before the opposition presser gets close to them.

Do any players have traits, like the CM-Su?  He seemed to make a forward run earlier than I expected which might make it harder to play shorter passes when one of the CM's is pushing higher with the AM-At and W-At?

Do you have other examples of poor build up? 

I checked the CM-SU, and he has "gets forward whenever possible" as a trait- that could be why he's pushing higher.

Also found a possible solution to my problem. I have a 3-4-1-2 tactic that I created just to play around with, gave it a shot in a friendly against a high-pressing Sporting side, and won 4-0. Not sure why it worked so much better than the 4-2-3-1, but I may try giving it a go against certain clubs this season.

2020-09-23 (2).png

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I tend to go direct with several attacking roles including a pacy striker. You press, I hoof. 

Cautious mentality, counter, and be more disciplined seem to help with my team at least to stop them doing any hospital passes and keep focused on getting past them.

Disclaimer: I'm not particularly good at tactics so take this with an entire shakerful of salt. 

Edited by Blünderbossu
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15 hours ago, RCCook said:

I checked the CM-SU, and he has "gets forward whenever possible" as a trait- that could be why he's pushing higher.

Thanks for confirming that, its reassuring I can spot stuff like that!  Him pushing forward will definitely make it harder to link the defence and forwards, especially with Shorter Passing.  Will rely heavily on the fullbacks dribbling it forward or finding the DLP and him turning to play it forward before getting pressured himself.

Quote

Also found a possible solution to my problem. I have a 3-4-1-2 tactic that I created just to play around with, gave it a shot in a friendly against a high-pressing Sporting side, and won 4-0. Not sure why it worked so much better than the 4-2-3-1, but I may try giving it a go against certain clubs this season.

2020-09-23 (2).png

4 midfielders on support and not using Shorter Passing makes it easier for the 3 CB to transition the ball.  TM might also attract some longer balls if they have no other options.

Hopefully thats a good sign but be careful you don't read too much into friendlies, player availability/condition/personalities will play a big part.

Edited by summatsupeer
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